By Raul Samaniego
NORWALK – Family, friends and acquaintances of Michael Ray Piña said their final goodbyes to their son, friend, brother, father and husband last weekend.
Visitors arrived to a scene of photos celebrating Piña’s life, including pictures of him as a child sitting on Santa’s lap and another showing him as he played the role of Santa himself.
Piña, 47, died in Norwalk on May 3 when a series of bullets entered his car just before 3 a.m. when he was driving near the intersection of Horst Avenue and 166th Street.
Known affectionately as “Pee-wee” to those who knew him closely, nearly 300 were in attendance Saturday, May 13 at the Norwalk United Methodist Church on San Antonio Drive for his funeral and remembrance service.
Brother-in-law Tony Ramirez remembered Piña’s love of sports, including his own his time playing Pop Warner Football as a youth in Norwalk.
Michael’s favorite sports teams included the Lakers, Raiders, and according to Ramirez, Piña was a “big Los Angeles Dodgers fan.”
In recognition of Piña’s passion for the Dodgers, many in attendance wore Dodger blue ribbons, hats, and jerseys.
Piña himself was wearing a Dodger jersey as he lay in repose during visitation and during his service.
“He even went to the Vin Scully Game,” Ramirez said referring to the Dodgers recognition for long time Dodgers announcer.
During the memorial service, some spoke of Piña’s incredible smile and his always well-trimmed beard.
Pastor Eddie Rodriguez reminded those in attendance of the “beginning” and “ending” of life.
He mentioned Michael’s 25-year marriage to his wife Lorraine, his mother Edna Walker, who went by the name “Pepper,” and the throngs of people who came to pay their last respects.
Close friend Fernando told the crowd, “I loved him like a brother.”
Talking about his proclivity for helping others, Fernando added, “He picked me up whenever I was down.”
Neighbor Evelyn Lozano shared, “Michael was part of our family.”
Pastor Ken Menchaca speaking in terms many in the audience understood said “He was a friend, a brother, a son, a husband…a homeboy.”
After the service, two dozen or so white doves were released in the courtyard in remembrance of Piña.